Disney’s live-action remake of Aladdin is being closely watched amid fears that the company would whitewash its cast or the story. And although it cast actors of color in the main roles Disney is now facing scrutiny for “browning up” several extras for the film.
The Sunday Times has reported that multiple Caucasian actors were “heavily tanned to look Middle Eastern.” The film takes place in the fictional kingdom of Agrabah, which has a Middle Eastern influence. Kaushal Odedra, who is an extra on Aladdin, had recognized one of the actors who played a palace guard (who is Caucasian) was tanned so that his skin tone looked darker than it was. He estimated the total of actors whose skin was darkened for filming could’ve been up to 20.
“Disney are sending out a message that your skin color, your identity, your life experiences amount to nothing that can’t be powdered on and washed off,” Odedra told the Sunday Times.
In a statement, Disney iterated that its production of Aladdin was “the most diverse cast ever assembled for a Disney live action production” and that “more than 400 of the 500 background performers were Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and Asian.” But it also admitted to putting makeup on a handful of extras in instances “when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety and control.”
“Great care was taken to put together one of the largest most diverse casts ever seen on-screen,” a Disney spokesperson told Deadline. “Diversity of our cast and background performers was a requirement and only in a handful of instances when it was a matter of specialty skills, safety, and control (special effects rigs, stunt performers, and handling of animals) were crew made up to blend in.”
But this Disney admission is not sitting well. The company already received scrutiny last year after the film invented a new character to be played by a white actor.
Aladdin will arrive in theaters May 24, 2019.